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Life and Arts

On the Town: Glendale Historical Society adds sparkle to its annual gala

Attending the Gala, from left, are Director of Community Development Philip Lanzafame, Maria Sahakia
Attending the gala are, from left, Philip Lanzafame, Maria Sahakian, Elissa Glickman, Councilwoman Paula Devine, Nina Crowe and Marcia Hanford.
(Joyce Rudolph)

The Glendale Historical Society’s annual gala and benefit was a dramatic production set in the gardens of the hilltop Bouffleur Estate.

Guests boarded black shuttles at a nearby parking lot, courtesy of Glendale Adventist Medical Center, and were swept away and up a winding driveway to the entrance of the property.

After their photographs were taken against a paparazzi backdrop, visitors received a glass of champagne and toured the grounds and the main house, while wait staff, garbed in tuxedos, passed hors d’oeuvres.

The evening’s highlight was the presentation of two awards by Greg Grammer, the society’s president, who stood on a platform surrounded by boulders several feet above the pool.


Glendale Arts received the 2017 Preservation Award for its Alex90 Illuminate Tower and Spire Restoration Project.

“This was a successful $75,000 fundraising campaign spearheaded by Glendale Arts to return the historic Alex Theatre’s iconic 100-foot neon tower and starburst to its former glow of glory,” he said. “I know many of you contributed toward this campaign, and the Glendale Historical Society provided matching funds for that donation.”

Accepting the award was Elissa Glickman, chief executive of Glendale Arts, which is the nonprofit organization that manages the Alex Theatre on behalf of the city of Glendale.

“This award really, to us, speaks to the mission of our organization to preserve and maintain the historic Alex Theatre and why the city of Glendale, I believe, selected Glendale Arts to be the stewards of the Alex Theatre,” she said. “Our success of this campaign would not have been possible without the support of our great partner, the Glendale Historical Society, led by the amazing president Greg Grammer.”


The Alex will celebrate its 92nd birthday in September. Since it opened in 1925, it has been the center of everything in Glendale, Glickman said.

It was the place for war bond rallies during World War II, movie premieres and previews as well as live performances.

For more than a decade, Glendale Arts has been working hard to balance the ever-changing needs of the patrons, residents and promoters, all the while preserving the city’s treasure, Glickman added.

In the last year alone, Glendale Arts has invested more than $125,000 for preservation and maintenance of the historic building.

“It’s our commitment to ensure that the Alex will look as good as it does today 90 years from now,” she said. “But we couldn’t do this alone. We need folks like you who care about our collective history, our preserving of the city’s treasure and a desire to honor the Alex’s legacy through contributions and help step up and support the work that we do.”

Glickman announced that Grammer, Betty Porto and Councilman Zareh Sinanyan and his wife Lori will be co-chairing a Seat Naming Campaign to create an endowment to ensure that there will be funds to help maintain the Alex in the future.

Arlene Vidor received the Carole Dougherty Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts in advocating historic districting in Glendale, serving on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, Glendale Historical Society’s board and as president of the Brand Associates, the fundraising arm of the Brand Library and Art Center.

She also presents lectures about Glendale’s architectural heritage.


“I am extremely honored, proud and very flattered to get this award,” Vidor said. “And I’ll double down on that because it’s named for Carole Dougherty, my role model, and should be all our role models for resilience.”

Vidor congratulated the historical society for its growth over the last eight years under Grammer’s “spectacular” leadership.

“I know how big the team has become, and what I love about it is that there are so many engaged, creative and wonderful people involved now,” she said, adding that they are getting the work done but having a good time.

Grammer said he appreciated homeowners Joan and Warren Binzley for providing the location for the gala.

The event’s proceeds benefit the society’s endowment fund to ensure the society continues and the preservation fund to provide financial support to historical districting projects.

Organizing the event were chair Scott Smissen, society board member Marcia Hanford, society executive director Sean Bersell and the silent-auction team of Robert and Leslie Gordon and Ralph Ziegler.

Corporate sponsors were the Walt Disney Co. and G&C Properties, which is owned by Gerri Cragnotti. Her son Chris Cragnotti attended the party with Leanne Reynolds.

Special guests attending were state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman; Arda Tchakian, district representative for state Sen. Anthony Portantino; City Councilwoman Paula Devine and Philip Lanzafame, Glendale’s director of community development .


JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at